Plato and the Allegory of Lums

Occasionally, something odd and seemingly disconnected pops into my head, as I’m hoping happens with you too. If not, call an ambulance and get me a straight jacket. I think I might want to pop these seemingly random (but probably not) images that cross my mind into blog posts here from time to time, if only because they seem like blog fodder and of some kind of trivial and entertaining interest to someone (mainly me).

Yesterday, a bit of my childhood briefly passed through my mind and left as soon as it came. It was a single interior “shot” of a restaurant called Lums, a place occasionally visited by my family when I was no more than 6 or 7 years old, living in Rhode Island. The decor was distinctly late-60s, early-70s with red pleather banquettes, faux hardwood and gold fixtures, and the drinking glasses were made of embossed, tinted brown glass. I think I remember onion rings, but I could be wrong.

Lums was a restaurant chain started in the late-60s in Miami, which then spread to something like 400 locations in North America. It lasted about 15 years as a family restaurant of sorts, but slowly died out. I hear they’ve opened a new one in Seekonk, Mass. in recent years, but I can’t imagine it’s remotely the same (and maybe hope it isn’t). As I searched the ‘net for info on Lums and images of some kind, I stumbled on this TV ad featuring Lums spokesman Milton Berle. (Please click through to watch. Hilarious, nostalgic, and problematic to embed unfortunately.)

The interior in that ad is strikingly similar to the single snapshot that has apparently haunted my mind all these years. Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” makes the distinction between what’s “real” and how we perceive it in our mind’s eye and in our memories. It’s a fun story that should be read in its context in “The Republic” but which can be roughly understood via the magic of Wikipedia if you prefer. I’m not sure what significance the memory of Lums plays in my thinking, except that it probably built some sort of schema for dining out, and dining out with family. As I have two small children and eat out on occasion, I suppose the image may be returning in a new light, and I also wonder what image my children are associating with their own family restaurant dining experience. Conveyor belt sushi? Gyoza and ramen? The more I think about the question, the more I think my self-analysis is correct. I think the recent gyoza and ramen experience reminded me of Lums in some weird way. Something about the vibe, or the play of shadows on the cave wall at any rate.

About mikeplugh

Media Ecology General Semantics Baseball Japan Fordham University
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One Response to Plato and the Allegory of Lums

  1. Missy says:

    I have memories of Lums as well! But mine seem to be of the one in Auburn, NY on Grant Ave. I seem to remember collecting some sort of drinking glass with characters on them. Every once in awhile it pops into my mind.

    P.S. Now I’m craving onion rings. Thanks a lot!

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